Finding Common Ground

August, 2019 – Tampa

“First, we have an incredibly weighty existence which requires that we respect God and our neighbor whether the latter is a Christian or not. It means that we should expect to find common ground with non-Christians as a natural part of human existence.” – Michael Horton

I find myself thinking about my neighbors a lot lately, mainly because I’m still new in the neighborhood. When I meet someone, I try to remember to write down the person’s name when I get home and something to remember them by, like a house number or a dog’s name. I’ve met 14 neighbors on my street so far. I’ve found a little common ground, such as other dog owners, someone who recently lost a family member, and one who likes strawberries. There are differences, too, such as a practicing Buddhist, the young couples, the single mom. But we can all talk about yard work, termites, and good restaurants. I just want the conversations to one day go beyond watering the yard to something more substantial. All in good time; all in God’s time.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  -  Matthew 22:37-39

Book Browsings #3: Voices

 

tiaIn Book Browsings #2 I referenced the writing club I sponsored. It was called the Young Author’s Club. I found a copy of the first, and I think only, issue we put together. The girls chose the name Voices for the title. It had four sections: Book Beginnings, Short Story, Poetry and Essay. As I look over the list of contributors I can see most of their faces. Tia was the one who came to me with the request to sponsor the club. I still keep up with her via Instagram and occasionally her blog.  She works in publishing among other things. I still have the scarf she brought me back from China when she visited there with her parents. Her mother, Yulin, was our parent sponsor and a huge help. I can semi-recall the faces of Kylie, Haley, Anna and Jakob who also contributed work to Voices.

One essay, by Anna Rea, came, as I recall, from a short in-class writing prompt. Hers was titled How to Be a Bad Neighbor.  Pretty hilarious! Here are a few excerpts:

Every person in their life comes across a bad neighbor. Why wait for a bad neighbor when you yourself could be a bad neighbor? In a few easy steps you could be the most hated person on the block…

One of the many things to do to be a bad neighbor is to have parties. Now, not just any party. It has to be a loud, all-nighter. …

Another thing that really gets your neighbor mad is having an obnoxious yappy dog…

Step three of how to be a bad neighbor is to leave your garbage cans out for long periods of time….

Finally, the most important part: HOLIDAYS! Around Christmas you have to buy those big, blow-up things… you must buy at least six of them. 

I loved teaching these kids. They were not just smart, but funny, fun-loving, caring, and full of energy. One student, Caroline, really stood out. I got to know her through her writings, but also while visiting her home when we were working on a charity project and meeting her mother and younger brothers. Her mom was just one of many parents who supported me and my students that year. Caroline graduated from Princeton and is now a fellow at  Washington University School of Medicine. She is following in the footsteps of her grandfather who was a prominent and well-loved physician in Jacksonville.

JP is a logistics officer in the Marines and living in Hawaii. Carson, now married, comes to mind whenever I see the scarf he brought me back from his trip to Vietnam where his grandfather was in in the war. Same with Harrison, who brought me playing cards from his trip to Africa.

I will always be grateful for the students who crossed my path and left a footprint. I am thrilled whenever I happen upon good news about one of them.

 

 

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Thoughts Stirred by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

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That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. (Juliet to Dawsey)

This book was the second one I’ve read recently that was set during and just after World War II. So, now my goal is to read two others I have at home already that are set in the same era.

Last month I read All the Light We Cannot See. So, when I was reading along in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and  Annie Barrows (TGL&PPS), it was happily surprising to find Saint Malo mentioned. This was a large part of ATLWCS. The next book, which I’ll begin tonight or tomorrow is Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky. This novel begins in Paris in 1940.

Even though these are fiction, they resonate with history and have drawn me in and left me feeling I have so much more to learn about events surrounding the second world war. Truly, I have even more to learn about all of history. The more I read the less educated I feel.  But, hopefully, the more educated I’m becoming.

It’s a Puzzle

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Today I learned about a town that has a population smaller than my kid’s high schools were. This town was purchasing something for the police department. I will change the name of the town, so let’s call it Puzzle, U.S.A.

In 2012, there were 1,297 people living in Puzzle which covers an area of 3.3 square miles. There are three gas stations, a bank, restaurant, a mini grocery store, and a police department. There is even a Beauty Barn. Would you get your hair done in a barn? Sorry, I digressed.

On the Fourth of July they have a “Miss Puzzle” pageant. I wonder if the contestants get their hair done at the barn? Oops, there I go again.

Most of the citizens commute to work, shop, and go to school. The crime rate is lower than the state where it is located and lower than the US average. The median income is lower, also, than the state’s and much lower than the country’s. So, what does all this mean? What can we learn about a “poor” community with a low crime rate?

I’ll just throw out this other fact for you to ponder. In this little town there are seven churches. Yes, seven. I don’t know anything more than the names of these churches. I don’t know how many of Puzzle’s citizens go to church. And, I know having a church on every corner can mean something or nothing. But I think somewhere in all this there is a connection.  I see a road trip in my future.

Friends Who Go to Funerals Together Stick Together

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.-Ecclesiastes  4:9

Today was a good day. Nothing extraordinary, really, except the joy I had on my drive home from work.  I thought about how the LORD has blessed me with friends and I have not realized how many he has sent along my path.

My husband can attest to the fact that I’ve cried many a tear bemoaning my lack of a “best” friend. I could say he is my best friend, and he truly is, but I need someone to do girl stuff with. The fact that he understands this shows what a good friend he really is.

Those friends from middle school are unique. They are the ones you grow up with and make memories that last forever. I’ve drifted away from most of those, but a few years ago I reunited with one and we have been closer than ever. It’s like we fell right back into that closeness that all the years had not erased. Twice this year we have gone to funerals together. I told my friend that would make for a good comedic novel, “Friends Who Go to Funerals Together Stick Together” or some such title.

But, what got to me today was exercise. Five of us stayed after work and did a 25 minute non-stop exercise routine. It was the idea of our boss, who was huffing and puffing right along with us. She is pretty fit, so the rest of us were doing most of the huffing and puffing. It was the camaraderie that made it worthwhile. It’s been a long time since I worked somewhere where everyone gets along. It’s a stress-free environment, at least for me.

I seem to be rambling, but my point is God has provided me with more than a job. He’s given me enjoyable office mates; friends to spur me on now in my effort to get fit. He’s given me back my friend from middle school. He’s given me kind neighbors. He’s making me aware of community – and I’m learning to BE a friend.

As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.-        Proverbs 27:17

ImageBeau and Loretta –  a doggie friendship